Elie Top is the latest Paris-based to designer to decamp to Los Angeles over the summer. Just last week, Vanessa Seward spent time in the city to open her first U.S. boutique on Melrose Place, A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou also makes frequent visits, as does John Galliano, and Isabel Marant stays with her fashion school pal and Los Angeles designer Sunjoo Moon when she’s in town.
What’s more surprising is that it was Top’s first visit to the City of Angels. The occasion: a trunk show at Maxfield, which is one of four U.S. boutiques that carry Top’s fine-jewelry designs exclusively (Ikram in Chicago, Grange Hall in Dallas and Dover Street Market in New York are the others). Top, a protégé of Alber Elbaz who designed accessories with him at Lanvin for 15 years, continues to design for the house but also started his own fine-jewelry collection last year.
Top’s pieces, which all feature movable parts centered around spherical stones, were not inspired by the constellations and planetary galaxies, although those references came into play later on. “I was inspired by the sugar pot in Paris cafés,” he said of the round, silver flip-top containers that hold sugar cubes and packets in restaurants. “Later on, I found some old books about the stars and galaxies, but my pieces have no astrological or scientific meaning.”
Top said he was eager to design for himself, and when his mentor Elbaz was pushed out of Lanvin last year, it was the perfect opportunity to also start experimenting with precious metals and stones. “There is a lot you can’t do with costume jewelry because the metals aren’t strong or malleable enough for such precise work,” he said. Top also utilizes 3-D printing to produce molds for the articulated cages that move in all directions around the center spheres. Craftsmen put the parts together with precision handiwork and diamond-setting is done in the east of France.
The collection of rings, cuffs, pendants and necklaces has been at Maxfield for a season, with new pieces brought in for yesterday’s trunk show. Some of those included convertible pieces such as a necklace that came apart to be worn as three bracelets, or one that featured two detachable pendants. “I was looking at pieces from the 18th century, like sautoirs that could come apart or be connected to brooches, or necklaces that could also work as tiaras.” Top’s rhodium-plated chain links and yellow gold accents have a much more heavy, industrial vibe, fitting for the rock-‘n’-roll Maxfield customer.
Top is taking the whole week to explore Los Angeles and visit other retailers, before heading to Greece for holiday. “It seems everyone in Paris goes on holiday in Los Angeles or Greece,” he said. “But I avoid islands like Patmos or Mykonos because then it feels like work because you see everyone you know.”